Johnny Morgan, Skinner, Patricia | 4/5/2013 5:42:51 PM
News Release Distributed 04/05/13
BATON ROUGE, La. – Connecting Cooperative Extension Service personnel in each state when information is needed after a disaster is the goal of LSU AgCenter disaster specialist Pat Skinner.
Since 1998, Skinner has been charged with hosting the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) website, which is used by extension agents across the country to share information and resources before, during and after a disaster, including hurricanes, drought, West Nile virus, floods and swine flu.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Ag Defense Initiative recently awarded $107,000 to the AgCenter to cover the cost of maintaining the site for 2013. These grants are consistently around $100,000 each year, Skinner said.
“EDEN was organized as a regional network to help deal with the aftermath of the 1993 floods on the Upper Mississippi River,” Skinner said.
After the floods, the USDA began providing funds through EDEN for other disasters, she said. During the first five years, EDEN focused primarily on the northeast region of the country, Skinner said. “But by the late 1990s, the decision was made to open up the program to the rest of the country.”
Skinner said the mission of EDEN is to reduce the impact of disasters through the dissemination of research-based educational information.
“The website has information and links to more information to use during disaster situations,” she said. “EDEN does not deploy to disaster sites, but we make communication easier.”
Skinner said this system allows EDEN members to determine the needs in an area affected by disaster and then provide whatever resources are needed.
“When a disaster strikes, we will generally convene a conference call or do some type of outreach to extension personnel in the affected states,” she said.
An example she gives is the Kentucky tornadoes a few years ago. A lot of states had information on managing the tornado response, but none had volunteer management information. In this situation, farmers were interested in using volunteers to clean up pastures full of debris, which was causing problems for cattle.
“This was an opportunity for Kentucky to develop a volunteer management plan and to share it through EDEN with others who may run into a similar problem,” Skinner said.